Oedipus the King Questions Answers
Q.1. What disaster does befall the city of Athens? What safety is expected by the priest?
Ans. When Oedipus asks what misfortunes have brought the people to him, the priest answers that the city is overtaken by a disaster, the land has become barren, the herds of sheep are hungry upon the pastures which used to be green; the women are giving birth to dead children, people are dying due to plague. That’s why the people are kneeling in prayer, hoping to get some relief in their trouble.
The priest asks Oedipus to save his subjects as he is the wisest man in Athens. Even, Oedipus can read the riddles of life and the mysterious ways of heaven as it is he who saved the city from the blood thirsty Sphinix. So, Oedipus’s direct attempts can save the country as the priest opines.
Q.2. What information is brought by Creon?
Ans. Seeking the guidance of the Oracle of Delphi, Creon arrives with the news for which Oedipus is longing. Creon tells that according to the Delphi Oracle, all the sufferings of the people are due to the presence in their midst of the man who had murdered Laius who was the king of Athens before Oedipus. So, that murderer must be killed at any cost before the people can expect any relief. This Oracle is brought by Creon and it is told to Oedipus.
Q.3. How was Laius killed?
Ans. King Laius had left the city with a few attendants on a religious journey and he never returned home. A single survivor came back to Athens and told that the king and his companions had fallen in with brigands who had killed all of them except him. Oedipus told that brigands can’t attack unless they are bribed to do so. Creon answered that no inquiry had been held into the murder as the city was troubled by Sphinx whose riddle was unsoluble to the common people. Oedipus was the only able man who solved this problem and when the city was free from the clutches of Sphinix, people offered their Queen to Oedipus.
Q.4. How does Oedipus try to avenge the murder of Laius?
Ans. On hearing the whole story from Creon, Oedipus replies that he will start an investigation into the murder of Laius until the truth comes to daylight. Oedipus declares that he will avenge the murder of Laius on behalf of the people of Thebes and on behalf of Phoebus. In avenging the murder, Oedipus will not only remove the stigma from the city but also protect himself because the murderer of Laius could very well try to murder Oedipus also.
Q.5. What does Oedipus declare about the murderer of Laius?
Ans. Oedipus asks the murderer to come forward and confess his guilt. The murderer need have no fear because his punishment will be nothing but the banishment from the city. If anybody can give any information about this, he will be rewarded with kingly grace. If any citizen is harbouring this killer in his house he must be driven out immediately as his presence is the cause of the plague in the city. Then Oedipus curses the murderer for killing Laius. He says that this man will find nothing but misery and wretchedness only as long as he lives. He also says that if himself is intentionally giving shelter to the murderer, let the same curse descend upon himself. Now, it is doubly his duty to find out that killer who will not be able to escape the wrath of Oedipus. He also curses that those who disobey him will be destroyed in no time.
Q.6. Why did Teiresias refuse to tell the truth?
Ans. The chorus-leader asked Oedipus to consult Teiresias as this man knew the name of Laius’s murderer due to his power to read the mind of Apollo. Oedipus obediently requested Teiresias that by telling the name of the killer, he could save the city from plague. But Teiresias refused to tell the truth as Oedipus himself had killed his father, Laius. So when Oedipus did not get any answer from the prophet after asking many times, he charged the prophet to be in league with the murder of Laius and to be guilty of betraying his city where he is born. But in spite of these allegations, Teiresias refused to expose the truth because if he told the truth none would believe it and even the king may punish him for daring so much as to speak against the king.
Q.7. What were the final words of Teiresias to Oedipus?
Ans. According to Teiresias, the man whom Oedipus is searching, namely the murderer of Laius is living in the city of Athens. He is to be found a Theban by birth even though he is now regarded as foreigner. The murderer will be forced to depart from the city being blind and his wealth turned to beggary. He will find himself to be the brother of his own children and the son of the very woman whom he now calls his wife. Then, Teiresias tells Oedipus that if these are not proved, he can call Teiresias to be a man lacking in the power of divination.
Q.8. Why does Jocasta disbelieve in prophecy of Oracles?
Ans. When Jocasta comes to know from Oedipus that the latter is declared to be the murderer of Laius according to the prophecy, she asks her new husband not to believe it. She tells that prophecy is nothing but imaginary. She relates that one Oracle came to Laius and prophesied that he would have a son by Jocasta and that child will kill Laius. But, later Laius was killed by brigands at a place where three roads met. And when the child was hardly 3 years old, Laius fastened both its feet together and ordered it in such a way that it might die. As Laius was not murdered by his son, Jocasta has no reliance on prophecy or Oracle.
Q.9. Why does Oedipus want to meet the survivor?
Ans. Hearing the story of Laius’s murder from Jocasta’s mouth. Oedipus is shaken by terror as he killed several persons where 3 roads meet. When Oedipus asks about Laius’ physical appearance, Jocasta told that he looked like Oedipus. He thinks that probably he has killed Laius and the curse uttered by him will come in his life. When Oedipus ask whether Laius was alone in time of his murder, Jocasta toll that the king was accompanied by 4 attendants. Except one all three were killed. That survivor came back to Thebe with the information of Laius’ murder. Oedipus reminds that the facts stated by Jocasta tally with his own recollection of one incident. He had encountered a royal party, got involved in a fight with them and killed all except one but he didn’t know their identity. However for his confirmation whether he himself is the murderer of Laius or not he wants to meet with the survivor.
Q.10. What account of his past life Oedipus did give to Jocasta?
Ans. Being asked by Jocasta, Oedipus told that Polybus and Merope, the king and Queen of Corinth respectively were his parents. But, one day a drunken man told at a Banquet that Polybus of Corinth was not the father of Oedipus. When Oedipus asked it to them, they negated it as a lie. But, being mentally disturbed too much, Oedipus secretly went to Delphi and asked the Oracle about his parentage. Avoiding the answer the Oracle said that Oedipus would murder his father and marry his mother who would bear children by him. But in order to prevent this idea to be changed into reality, he never went back to Corinth. In course of his aimless journey he arrived at the spot where three roads met and where without any provocation by him, he got involved in a fight with a few travelers nearly all of whom were killed. Oedipus wonders whether anyone of those men killed by himself was Laius. If he killed, then his own curse will destroy him. Again he can’t go back to Corinth as there is still the possibility of killing his father Polybus and marrying his mother. In short Oedipus states a critical situation through which he is passing, to his wife Jocasta.
Q.11. Why is the origin and birth of Oedipus still a mystery?
Ans. The Corinthian explains that he had presented Oedipus to Polybus and Merope who being childless had adopted the infant. He says that he had found an infant in the woods upon Mt. Cithaeron where he was a hired shepherd. He found that the child’s feet were chained and therefore named it Oedipus. He also tells that actually the child had been given to him by another shepherd who was an employee of king Laius. Here Oedipus becomes anxious and wants to talk to the other shepherd who can really supply the exact information about Oedipus’ origin and birth. Oedipus suspected that he was not the child of the Corinthian king when a drunken man told him so. But now the total matter is disclosed but Oedipus wants to be over-sanguine. As the another shepherd is still absent, Oedipus is not confirmed about his birth.
Q.12. What is the reaction of Jocasta on hearing the truth?
Ans. When Oedipus asks Jocasta if the man sent for is the same man to whom king Laius had handed over his little child. Jocasta realizes the situation. She makes out that Oedipus, her husband is her own son who was placed on Mt. Cithaeron as the Oracle told that this child would murder king Laius. Jocasta realizes the grave crime she has committed by marrying her own son. She asks Oedipus not to pursue his investigation about his parentage. But Oedipus is determined and misinterpreted her. Jocasta leaves the place in a state of misery and wretchedness. But, Oedipus is indifferent and he says that he will not be ashamed if he finds that he is low born.
Q.13. What is the substance of Chorus’ lamentation?
Ans. The song of the chorus laments upon the vicissitudes of human life. No man, says the chorus, can win any real happiness. Happiness is truly a shadow that is sure to fade away. The fate of Oedipus proves this. By killing Sphinix he became the sovereign ruler of Thebes but now he is the most wretched and most miserable man in this world. His golden life is reduced to dust and ashes. He has committed a monstrous crime by becoming the husband of the woman who had given his birth. Time sees everything. That’s why, time has punished the unnatural marriage of Oedipus with his mother. The chorus laments the fact of ever having known such a man like Oedipus.
Q.14. What is the result of discovering the parentage of Oedipus?
Ans. When the parentage of Oedipus is discovered, a messenger comes from the palace and informs that Jocasta is dead. Knowing the real identity of Oedipus, the Queen had felt crazy with grief. She ran across the courtyard and tore her hair with her hands. Shutting her chamber, she called upon Laius and told that he was killed in the hands of his son to whom she got married later. She cried upon the bed where she gave birth to a child who later slept in the same bed as her husband. Oedipus also felt miserable and grief-stricken and wandered through the palace. He asked for a sword and his wife. Then he saw the queen’s dead body hanging by a rope. He disengaged her body from the rope and snatching away the golden brooches from her dress, he struck his own eyes. He pinned his eye balls several times with the result that blood flowed from them profusely. The happiness of Jocasta and Oedipus ended in great tragedy, in shame, in ruin, in death and in lamentation.
Q.15. Why did Oedipus blind himself?
Ans. The chorus-leader told that Oedipus has not done the right thing by blinding himself as it is better to be dead than to be blind. Oedipus shows some reasons for his own deed. He says that by killing himself he would have gone to Hades where he would have found the ghosts of his parents. He wanted to avoid this horrible confrontation. He also thinks that death is not a suitable punishment for his crime. If he had not blinded himself, the sight of children would have been no pleasure to him as they were born due to an unnatural union. He also didn’t want to see the city, its walls, and its sacred statues. He declared to expel the murderer of Laius from Thebes. Now, he is devoid of eye-sight. It would have been better if he would have been deaf also. He also thinks that if he is deprived of every good thing in Thebes, the punishment would suit his criminal acts. Therefore, blinding himself is justified by Oedipus for his done deeds.
Q.16. What is the substance of Oedipus’ lamentation?
Ans. Oedipus laments why Mt. Cithaeron accepted him at all instead of letting him die as a child. He asks why was he brought up by the king of Corinth. He wonders why did he go to the spot where three roads met and why did he murder his father who was his own blood. He also reminds that even he had married his mother and begotten children by her and the blood of father, mother, wife, son, brother mingled with each other. Therefore, Oedipus wants to be banished immediately, or be killed or be thrown into the sea where he may sink from view. Oedipus also says that who can endure this load of evil but Oedipus himself. But the chorus-leader directs him to address his prayer to Creon who is coming towards him and now who will be the next king of Thebes.
Q.17. What request did Oedipus make to Creon?
Ans. When Creon comes to him, Oedipus finds it hard to speak to Creon as he misjudged him and falsely accused him of treason. But, Creon proves to be very considerate. He wants to take Oedipus inside the palace but Oedipus makes a request to him. Oedipus says that he likes to be banished from Thebes so that he can be alone and nobody is able to speak to him. Creon answers that he can’t do anything without divine approval. Oedipus says that the Oracle spoke about the destruction of the murderer of Laius but Creon hopes for the opinion of Gods in the present situation. Oedipus is asked to perform the burial ceremonies of dead Jocasta. But, Oedipus is par to go to Mt. Cithaeron and die there where he was sent in his infancy to die. He also request Creon that the latter need not bother about Oedipus’s sons who somehow will be able to look after themselves and he earnestly requests Creon to care for his unhappy daughters.